Who they are

10 09 2012

The coffee shop bustles with activity. Moms in work-out gear grabbing a latte for the road, business people conferring with colleagues or tapping away at their computers, and probably at least one writer, fingers poised over keyboard, awaiting caffeinated inspiration.

All the tables are taken, so we carry our coffee and scones to the counter by the window and perch on stools, a hodgepodge of humanity coming, going, talking, and laughing around us.

I’ve known her only a couple of months, but it doesn’t matter. We commune as sister to sister, soldier to soldier, our connection immediate and soul deep. She, too, has a story of beauty from brokenness, and she laughs with the freedom that comes from knowing nothing can separate her from God’s love. No stranger to pain, darkness, and hope-waiting-long, she lives in the tension of already-but-not-yet, confident in her assurance that all things must serve His purpose.

This confidence lights her smile with peace.

I drink deeply the river of life flowing through her and over me — swallow it right down to my bones, because the truth is, I’m tired. Tired, and thirstier than I realized.

Our conversation ranges wide, all its paths winding back to Truth, and I sense that these moments matter — that they won’t be lost but are etched in eternity. She shares her journey (she already knows mine), and as story begets story, I tell her about a time I glimpsed true greatness.

We’re both amazed by the higher ways of God’s upside-down kingdom, and then, without warning, it happens.

There may be a thousand reasons God wanted me right here, right now, celebrating His faithfulness with this friend. But what she tells me next rips a veil from my eyes, transforming this busy coffee shop into the house of God and the gate of heaven.

It’s the story of a mother and her son. And it’s so much more.

When Michael was born, the doctors told his mother, Angela, that he was missing a chromosome. They said he probably wouldn’t live more than a few months, and even if he lived longer, he would never walk. Never talk. Never live a normal life.

Michael did live. He’s going on his eighteenth birthday. And he not only walks, he dances with joyful abandon. But his condition causes complicated problems that aren’t easy to pinpoint or treat. He can’t talk, and even though he can use an iPad to communicate, Angela is often left guessing what to do for him. The past eighteen years have been spent in and out of medical facilities, and many nights she is awakened to come to his aid for one reason or another.

One night she was up yet again at 2:00 AM, massaging his feet, trying but failing to relieve his pain, and she wept for sheer exhaustion and frustration. And then God spoke.

Do you know what a privilege it is to serve Michael?

The question startled her. But that wasn’t all God said.

You have no idea who he is.

These words — this truth — it blazes with the sun’s brilliance, blinding me with reborn sight. This is it! The puzzle piece I’ve been groping for, the mystery I’ve been missing. I’m looking at my friend, but I might as well be looking straight into the eyes of Christ, because Jesus is speaking these words to me here, now, as surely as He spoke them to Angela in the dark night of her discouragement.

You have no idea who he is. Who she is. Your son with his brain injury. Your mother with her Alzheimer’s. Your heavy-laden father with his tender, generous, broken heart. You have no idea.

And yet, shouldn’t it have been obvious? How could I have missed it? Here I’ve been, purposeful parent to the one and dutiful daughter to the two, stoically taking up my cross, enduring as though Christ’s kingdom, the salvation of my loved ones, and everything good and holy depended on me.

You have no idea who they are.

Oh, yes. I’ve been obedient. And prayerful. And much of the time I’ve even remembered to cast myself on the Lord, leaning on His grace moment by moment. (Of course, I’ve also noticed myself doing and being these things — the self-righteous always do.) I’ve taken to heart that I’m called to be salt and light, but deep down I’ve wanted a bigger, more glamorous hill for my little city to shine on. I’ve imagined the beautiful things I could be doing for God if only I didn’t have these obligations, and I’ve comforted myself with the hope that He’s using these difficult days to sanctify and equip me for fancier, funner ministry — a ministry that makes better use of “my gifts.”

Ugh. Am I really that pathetic? My son. My mother. My father. They are the gift. And infinitely more.

Jesus never said, “Impress presidents, and you’ll impress Me.” He never said, “Win awards on earth, and you’ll win awards in Heaven.” But He did say, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for Me.”

You have no idea who they are. It’s time to wake up.

We’re still sitting in the coffee shop, perched on our stools amidst a rush of sights, smells, and sounds. But in the realer Real a ladder reaches from here all the way to heaven. I’ve been asleep in the middle of nowhere, beating my aching head against this stone, and now I’m stunned awake and find myself face to face with God.

I came here today to meet a friend, and Jesus showed up. Words can’t express the wonder of such a kind, undeserved, unexpected gift. But I know it doesn’t mean the challenges are over — that life from now on will be all music and roses. And that’s okay. Because He gave me exactly what I needed to enter these moments fully with gratitude and holy joy. No, I don’t have it all figured out, and I’m sure I’ll struggle and stumble again. But this one amazing, humbling thing I do have, and I pray I never forget.

I know who they are.

* * *

Giving thanks in community for (#576 – 601)

holy places everywhere
stories that help us remember
birthday flowers from George
Luke at the door with birthday surprises at 7:30 AM
a clean house
traveling mercies
conviction of sin
the promise of wisdom
George’s voice over the phone
grace that covers even the oldest, deepest wounds
Sarah’s insight
Luke’s servant heart
a serendipitous meeting on the way to church
Naomi in my lap on the shuttle bus
worship with beloveds
a long chat with Grace (who wears her name so well)



25 responses

10 09 2012
Kathy Richards (@katdish)

Oh, Jeanne. What a beautiful way to start my Monday morning. Thank you.

10 09 2012

You’re welcome. And thank you. Just seeing your name today is a gift. Strange how friendship (even long-distance and mostly digital) grows far more dear when the heart is sore. Love you.

10 09 2012
Cindy in PA

It’s so wonderful when Jesus shows up at the coffee shop and when we’re able to recognize him in our every day moments. Thank you for sharing your life, your list, and your lessons learned. Blessings!

10 09 2012

Thank you, Cindy. It is wonderful indeed. May we never lose our amazement over it.

10 09 2012
Ells....ro elliott

Oh my…I came here to read a blog…but Jesus showed up…my heart is pierced right through…my brother…my parents…oh Lord have mercy…to see like you see…to love like you love. thanks for sharing this…my world just might become a more beautiful place because of this~

10 09 2012

So thankful Jesus met you here today. Humbled and thankful. Blessings on your brother and parents, and on you.

10 09 2012

The miracle of one heart sharing with another with another – and the light shines and we see the knee-bending truth. My self-righteous self needed this Jeanne. Thank you for putting it all into such beautiful prose. How it shines.

10 09 2012

Sweet Linda, you are welcome. You’re such a precious soul, and you bless many, including me. Thank you. Much love.

10 09 2012
Nancy Franson (@nancyfranson)

Sometimes Jesus speaks to me while I’m sitting here in front of the keyboard. He did. Tonight. Through your words. I am hushed.

10 09 2012

Thanking Him with you, Nancy. May your communion with Him be sweet. Love.

10 09 2012
deb colarossi

oh jeanne. tears. that is all. tears.
Belated Birthday love to you.
So much

10 09 2012

Thank you, dear Deb. Your tears are a gift. And thank you for the birthday love. I miss you and your beautiful words. xo

10 09 2012
Jody Lee Collins

Okay, now that I’ve read these words……oh Jesus, help me live them. Thank you for sharing such a blinding, beautiful moment with us. I am inspired!

10 09 2012

Thank you, Jody. I need Jesus to help me live them, too. So thankful you are inspired.

11 09 2012
tj wilson

Touched, Jeanne. Moved to tears. Thankful you got all that from your heart / thoughts into words.

11 09 2012

Thank you, TJ. Love to you and your beautiful family. xo

11 09 2012
Stefanie Brown

Beautiful words. What a blessing your grace gifts are to us!
Thank you for sharing…

11 09 2012

Thank you, Stefanie. It’s so encouraging to know that, not only is God showing up with living water in our little desert, but these difficult days are also transformed into blessing for others.

20 09 2012
FlowerLady Lorraine

This is just what I needed for today.

Thank you ~ FlowerLady

29 09 2012

I’m so glad! You’re welcome with all my heart.

27 09 2012
Simply Darlene

Oh my land, what a gift you’ve shared.

(I’ve missed it here. Sorry for my absence this summer.)


29 09 2012

Thanks, Darlene. And welcome back. I always love seeing your sweet face and “hearing” your voice. (If anyone’s written words have an accent, yours do!) xo

29 09 2012
Shellie Rushing Tomlinson

Found this post accidentally, or so someone would say that doesn’t know our Jesus. 🙂 Thank you for a wonderful read!

29 09 2012

You’re welcome, Shellie. I’m so thankful Jesus led you here and met you in these words. Welcome back any time.

1 10 2012
Karen Zacharias (@karenzach)

Oh, how I have missed you.

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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